I’ve just been asked to give a recommendation on the kind of setup a LUG would require to do regular video recordings. Here is the email reply that I wrote – and now thought I should share through my blog.
The tech gear that is required to record LUG meetings depends on the amount of effort that you want to put in and the type of rooms you are recording.
I would certainly recommend an expensive tripod – it needs to be heavy to be stable and smooth for panning and tilting. Trust me: it makes a world of a difference!
Then, you will need a DV camera – consumer-quality will be plenty. Don’t go for a DVD camera – their recording capacity is 30 min only.
They are thus good to capture random walk-around footage, but not talks.
Finally, hook up a headphone to your camera to be able to hear what it records.
This is the baseline equipment, really. Record to DV tapes, later hook up the camera to your computer, use Kino to rip and edit (mostly trim front and back), use ffmpeg2theora to transcode, and you’re done.
The only problem with this equipment is that you will not get good sound unless you are able to hook up to a PA output. Here is where the complexity starts, since most theatres don’t provide you with such output. All the art in video production is in the audio.
A first step to improving the sound is by using lapel mics (make sure your camera can take mic input). These give you the speaker in perfect sound quality.
What you may still be worrying about is the questions and the laptop sound.
To get the questions, you need wireless handheld mics. But now you have two sound sources that need mixing. Well, the cheapest approach to that is a Beachtek XLR adapter, which you screw under your camera onto the tripod and takes 2 inputs to mix down to one with mic output.
If you’re really keen and want to get the laptop sound, too, you end up with three inputs and now you need a proper mixer to take all the signals in.
Another improvement to make is the medium onto which you record. DV tapes are rather hard to handle and take ages to rip. We wanted a simpler process and thus bought some consumer DVD recorders that we’d hook up to the firewire output of the cameras to do recording.
Of course you want to monitor that the recording is actually happening, so we also bought some small black/white TVs, which we got from Toys’R'US for under $20.
You can throw the DVDs into any computer and transcode from there. They are also a good back-up medium. And they require lots less storage than DV tapes and are much easier to organise.
And this is my preferred future setup for SLUG: DV camera, tripod, lapel mic, DVD recorder, TV.
When I was a child, my dad used to take me to classic music concerts – piano concerts, cello concerts and the like. I really loved the music but hated having to sit still for so long. I got used to the tradition in classic music concerts to sit still on your chair in an orderly fashion and try not to sneeze or in any other way disrupt the dignified performance.
As a teenager, I loved going to rock and pop concerts, when they came anywhere close to my home town (which was not very often, since I grew up on the German countryside). I loved the party that a concert represents, with drinks and dancing and screaming and generally being wild.
But it seems that the Rock stars of my time have grown old and their concerts have turned into “classical music”.
I recently went to a Rolling Stones concert in Homebush and last night to an Eric Clapton concert in the Entertainment Centre. Both times , I sat in a far away corner from centre stage and was not able to see much of the stars. I still enjoyed their great music.
In last night’s concert, I dared get up and stand in one of the large hallways that connect the rangs – and of course I started to dance, ’cause that’s what Eric Clapton music does to me! To my enormous disappointment, I was asked by some dorky security guard to get back to my seat.
What bad can a little dance do? Why is it not allowed to have fun at a Rock concert of old stars? It gave me 100 times the enjoyment of the music in comparison to being nailed down in a seat! And I’m sure, if more people were allowed to show their joy this way, the musician would also have more fun in the concert. To me, it seemed like Eric was rather disappointed with the Sydney crowd. Well NO FU….. WONDER!
I think, in future I will stick to the concerts of younger and local musicians and crowds – such as Missy Higgins or Xavier Rudd, where you are actually encouraged to enjoy the music with your full conscience and body. Those classic music concerts just made me feel old and joyless…
I keep getting asked how we did the technical setup, so let me share it here.
With Video at LCA, this year, we did not want a repetition of the more experimental setups of previous years. We set out with only one goal: to publish good quality video during LCA to increase the number of talks that people will be able to look at and discuss. Our only aim is the Ogg Theora format since it is the only open video codec and what would a conference on FLOSS be if we didn’t stick to our ideals even with codecs!
One consequence of our narrow goal is that you will not find any live video streaming at LCA in 2007. The reasoning behind this is that we reach maybe a few hundred people with streaming, but that publishing reaches millions. Another reason is that previous years of video recordings at LCA have mostly had problems with one particular part in this picture: computers. So, we decided to take the computer out of the recording process and only use it in the transcoding, uploading and publishing part of the conference.
We are therefore recording from the DV cameras straight to DVD, which provides us with a physical backup as well as a quick way to get the data into the computer (in comparison to using DV tapes). Though this means that we use a non-free compression format in the middle of our process, it makes it a lot less error-prone. We’re waiting for the day when we can replace our camera – DVD recorder setup with Ogg Theora recording hard-disk cameras!
But the technical part of the video recordings is only one part of the picture. If you want good quality footage, you have to put people behind the cameras at all times. Speakers do weird things and a recording of slides with voice-over is not a very sensible video recording of conference talks. You really require a minimum of 2 people per lecture hall to cover the semi-professional setup that was required for the Mathews theatres: one looking after the audio and the other after the video, with a bit of slack time to give each other a break.
In parallel to the camera crews, we have a transcoding and upload team, which constantly receives the DVDs (and the DV tape backups) from the recording rooms. You also need stand-by people for relief. The upload process involves editing of the start and end points of videos, then a transcode to Ogg Theora and an upload to a local file server at the conference. This video gets mirrored to a Linux Australia Server and published into the conference Wiki through an automatic script.
We are very lucky to have a competent and reliable A/V team of volunteers at LCA 2007 who give up their opportunities to attend the conference for the greater good of all of us. Each team member covers all the days and it takes a lot of dedication to be up in the morning before everyone else (and possible after a hard night’s partying) and working a full day behind the camera or the computer. One of the team members even spent his birthday behind the camera!
I’d like to thank everyone on the A/V Team (in no particular order):
- Timothy Terriberry,
- James Courtier-Dutton,
- Michael Dale,
- Holger Levsen,
- Nick Seow,
- Sridhar Dhanapalan,
- Chris Deigan,
- Jeremy Apthorp,
- Andrew Sinclair,
- Andreas Fischer,
- Adam Nelson,
- Ryan Vernon, and
- Ken Wilson.
In addition, the networking people have worked hard to make the uploading and publishing process as smooth as possible – I’d like to thank in particular John Ferlito and Matt Moor for their hard work.
It was a great experience to work with such a large team in such a professional setup where we managed to overcome many technical and human challenges and get the first video published even during LCA!